"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news..." Romans 10:15

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome Home!

He seemed hesitant to accept the cheers of the crowd, he didn't know where to look so he focused his eyes straight ahead. I couldn't help but notice the emotion behind his eyes. I wanted to reach out and comfort him, or somehow communicate to him. I wished that I could know what he was thinking, and how to help him transition from one world to the next...from a war zone to home.
Another mans' shock registered immediately on his face and his lips formed the word "WOW".
His eyes scanned the crowd, broad smile in place as he accepted the applause and cheers from a sea of unknown faces. I wonder if he was thinking... ' I am home!'

These observations came from a recent opportunity I had to welcome home some troops from Iraq. A large group of people gathered in an airport staging area manned by the USO. The returning military personnel walked through a tunnel of people...most of them knowing none of us, but all received the same welcome. For those who had a relative on the plane, they got a place of honor at the front of the line. This ensured that loved ones got to greet each other first. The next in line to greet them were the veterans that had served in other wars...people who understood much of what the returning soldiers were going through.
I don't know what the soldiers expected as they stepped onto US soil, or what they had experienced in Iraq. I didn't even speak to anyone of them...but I did whoop and holler with the crowds as we fellow Americans welcomed home those who had so recently been in harms way.

Each soldier has a different story, one that I am not privileged to know. From what I could tell, they all were happy to be home or close to home. All seemed grateful for the welcome...but not all knew how to accept it. For some is was obvious that they were overwhelmed either with awe or a bit of fear.

I didn't know how I would respond. I was very glad to be a part of the moment, and to honor those who serve our country. The major feeling was celebration...these soldiers were safe. I was honored to be a part of celebrating their safety, service and sacrifice.

As I reflect on this experience I can't help but think that this was a taste of what happens every day as believers are welcomed into heaven. I don't know what really takes place when we pass from this life to our heavenly one, but I can imagine. I imagine that those who have gone before us are all gathered. I hope, as Randy Alcorn has suggested, that our loved ones are front and center of the welcoming committee. The relationships that the Lord placed us in on earth, fully realized in heaven. I imagine that those that were a part of the same mission in life, being second in line. The crowds gathered, many we have never known.

I wonder whose reaction I will replicate in heaven. Will I be so overcome with the transition and the stark contrast along with my own unworthiness that I don't know how to accept it all? Or will I stand in awe and say 'WOW!', taking it all in? I don't know. What I do know is that Jesus will be there. Regardless of my reaction He will reach out to me. He will help me make the transition from the war zone to home.

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